Thursday, October 25, 2012

Social worker bans religious conversation

A social worker has taken the idea of “qualifying” for federal benefits to a new level by telling a resident of a HUD-subsidized building that she no longer had the right to free speech because of the government’s contributions to the building’s operations.
The attack on religious freedom came in a Minneapolis suburb, where Ruth Sweats told WND that she was told she has “no freedom of speech.”
Sweats told WND that she and a friend were sitting in a corner of the common area at the Osborne Apartments in Spring Lake Park, Minn., when she says the building social worker, Rachelle Henkle, “dramatically approached her with a raised voice” and said, “You can’t talk like that here!”
Since Sweats was having a private conversation with a friend and simply had read the introduction paragraph from her Bible describing the Book of Revelation, she was shocked. She said her friend had asked her about Revelation, and she opened her Bible and began reading the introduction that precedes the book.
Sweats, a member of a Messianic church congregation, said she frequently reads the Bible, studies it with friends, prays, and even hosts Bible studies in that very room, yet for some reason the social worker’s ire was triggered when she read, “These that bear the mark of the monster and are not registered in the Lambs Book of Life.”
Sweats told WND she informed Henkle that she was entitled to have a private conversation with a friend, and in fact had done so many times, saying, “I have freedom of speech, you know.”
But she says the social worker claimed that free speech doesn’t exist when it’s in a HUD-funded building, and that in order to talk about the Bible it had to be in an apartment, not the common area.
Sweats said the tenant handbook outlines fair housing regulations but she wasn’t shown where any regulation would allow someone to silence her private conversation about her religion with a friend.
Matt Sharp, an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom, says that his organization now represents Sweats and that he has sent a letter to the building’s management company, Ebenezer, informing them of their discriminatory actions.
“In their apparent effort not to discriminate, it’s possible they may be discriminating against Sweats,” Sharp told WND.
Sharp said the building management’s position is simply incorrect and that HUD has repeatedly made statements announcing that funding is not in jeopardy because of private religious expression.
“Simply because the government provides a benefit with public funds does not mean that all ‘mention of religion or prayer’ must be whitewashed from the use of the benefit,” Sharp wrote in the letter to Ebenezer.
ADF would like to see Ebenezer “do the right thing,” Sharp said.


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